Drug War

Trashing the Constitution

        With unemployment at or near record lows, all that stands between Iowa and economic glory is the ability to attract enough workers to the state to fill the jobs being generated.   Given our climate and traditionally low wages, this can be a tough sell.  The Legislature and governor want to make this even tougher by expanding drug testing, which will be used to harass the very workers they want to attract.
     Prosperity or drug testing: choose.

-- John Hiett,
1172 Hotz, Iowa City.

        The Iowa Senate recently passed a drug-testing bill that gives employers the right to randomly test their employees for drugs and alcohol for no particular reason.  This is very disturbing, as it strips away personal freedoms.
        We all want to eliminate drugs and alcohol in society and the workplace, but not at the expense of our rights.  Iowa's current law gives employers the right to test employees when they have probable cause.  The bill that passed the Senate gives employers more rights than what law enforcement officials have and subjects thousands of law-abiding, hard-working Iowans to unnecessary invasion of personal privacy.
        Drug and alcohol abuse is a problem in society, not just in the workplace.  Apparently businesses feel these problems are not their responsibility.  When a piece of machinery breaks down, a business does not hesitate to spend whatever it takes to repair it.  Why, when workers have a drug problem, do they want to throw them away?  Iowans who have substance-abuse problems need help in overcoming their problem, which this law would not require the employer to provide.
        I applaud the Senate Democrats, and the lone Republican, for voting against this bill that violates our freedom and does nothing to solve the problem of drug and alcohol abuse in our state.

-- Randy Boulton,
United Steelworkers of America,
301 N.E. Trilein Dr., Ankeny.

        "The right of people to be secure in their persons ... against unreasonable searches ... shall not be violated ... but upon probable cause."
        These words come from the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution.  Still fresh in the minds of the authors were the invasions of privacy and unwarranted searches by British soldiers of the masses in an effort to find the guilty few.
        And now, in 1998, the search of the masses could again become law.  Our state Senate, under the premise of providing innocent workers the right to a safe, drug-free workplace, has passed a bill taking from these same innocent employees their right to privacy and against being unreasonably searched by their employers.
        There is no epidemic of workplace alcohol and drug use.  According to a major drug-testing company that supplies workplace drug-testing data to our government, of the more than 2 million workplace drug tests performed in the first half of 1997, less than 6 percent resulted positive.  And of those, over half were from marijuana.  These positive results do not indicate employees were under the influence; they indicate employees had left-over traces in their bodies, which in the case of marijuana can test positive for up to a month after usage.
        No one wants drug or alcohol use in the workplace, but statistics certainly do not justify the unreasonable search of the innocent mass of employees.
        Iowa currently has an excellent workplace drug-testing law.  A law protecting the rights of employees while allowing employers to test when they have probable cause.  A law promoting rehabilitation of employees who do have drug or alcohol problems.
        I hope the members of our House of Representatives will see fit to stand up for the majority of their constituents, working Iowans, and vote down the new legislation.

-- Michael H. Dunn,
1412 S. Hampshire, Mason City.

The Des Moines Register
Sunday, March 1, 1998, Page 7AA